Woman arrested on charges of smuggling U.S. space technology to China

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California woman was arrested on Tuesday on federal charges of conspiring to procure and illegally export sensitive space communications technology to her native China, the U.S. Justice Department said in a statement.

Si Chen, also known as Cathy Chen, 32, could face a prison term of up to 150 years if convicted of all charges contained in the 14-count indictment returned against her by a federal grand jury on April 27, the department said.

She pleaded not guilty at an arraignment in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles and was ordered held with bail pending a bond hearing set for Thursday, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Chen, a resident of the Los Angeles suburb of Pomona, is accused of violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which controls the export of certain goods and technology from the United States.

Specifically, the indictment alleges Chen purchased and smuggled sensitive materials to China without obtaining required export licenses, including components commonly used in military communications “jammers.”

She also is accused of smuggling devices typically used in space communications applications, and falsifying the paperwork used in shipping those items to list them as worth $500, rather than their true value of more than $100,000.

The exports in question date from March 2013 to December 2015.

In addition to various export-related offenses, Chen is charged with conspiracy, money laundering, making false statements on an immigration application and using a forged passport, according to the Justice Department.

“Federal export laws are designed to protect American interests by preventing the proliferation of technology that may fall into the wrong hands,” acting U.S. Attorney Sandra Brown said in a statement.

A trial date was scheduled for July 18.

Reporting by Eric Walsh in Washington and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; editing by Eric Beech and Jonathan Oatis